If you’re like me, you habitually print out anything that you download from the Web before you start reading or working on it.

In fact, it’s startling to contemplate working on something that can’t be physically held, filed and stored. I guess that’s because I’m not a member of Generation Y, or even, in my case, Generation X.

Generation X refers to those who are between the ages of 31 and 45, while Generation Y embraces those who are between 9 and 30.

“The customer base of the tax and accounting profession is beginning to see the impact of demographic shifts, as is the staff pool of the firms we serve today,” said Teresa Mackintosh, CPA, CITP, senior vice president and general manager, Americas—professional for the Tax & Accounting business of Thomson Reuters.

“While Generation X comprises 44 percent of the workforce, it comprises only 30 percent of accounting firm clients,” she said. “Generation Y makes up 16 percent of the workforce, but only 8 percent of accounting firms’ client base. That’s where the future of the accounting firm will come from. What we need to do today is to be relevant to them, because it will impact future growth and profitability.”

The answer Jon Baron received from his son when Baron added computer paper to his list of supplies to pick up at a local office supply store indicates the direction we’re headed as the profession transitions to a new generation. Baron, president, Americas – Professional at Thomson Reuters, said his son answered, “Why?”

Thinking adroitly, Baron responded, “Well, it’s for your mother.”   

This illustrates perfectly the concept of how different demographics in upcoming generations of the workforce will affect not only firms, but more importantly how the firms will need to change to attract customers from younger generations. And that’s why Thomson Reuters and other vendors have concentrated their efforts on products that will enable accounting firms to service them.

In a joint keynote address to the 1,000 participants at its 30th Annual Users’ Conference, Baron and Mackintosh discussed how mobile and cloud technology tools will be essential in the effort to make tax and accounting services relevant to a new generation of clients, as well as lower operating costs, increase productivity, and raise service levels. They demonstrated a new Mobile CS application, giving Practice CS users access to key firm and client data while on the go. 

“Practice CS is the first thing we’re delivering on the new platform because it has so much relevance to deliver to partners and staff while on the road,” Mackintosh said. “If you look at where accounting firms are getting most of their revenue today, the vast majority is coming from older established clients. But when you think of how different the younger generation operates, if they’re not using professionals today what will make them seek it five years from now? They can learn everything they need on the Web with technology that’s available today.”

And for me, the lesson learned was never, ever, ask my son to pick up some computer paper.

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